Organ of Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North
Volume 1, Issue 4; April-May 2003 $1.00
L L I A N C E ! A Revolutionary Communist
Alabaster 5th Millenium
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MUSEUM RAVAGED – USA INCITES LOOTING.
The celebrated Indian writer Arundhati
Roy wrote these following words to open
a condemnation of USA and UK imperialism:
Who are the Barbarians? Ask the American Council
on Cultural Policy (the ACCP)
"Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates.
How many children, in how many classrooms, over how many centuries, have
hang-glided through the past, transported on the wings of these words?
And now the bombs are falling, incinerating and humiliating that ancient
She could not have known how accurate
she was to be. For she had stressed both the bomb damage, but also the
humiliation. That humiliation came only to be too true, as the deliberate
USA policy of humiliation of the peoples of Iraq, was made clear to the
Arundhati Roy; "The Ordinary Person’s Guide to
Empire"; 4.11.03; http://inthesetimes.com/print.php?id=156_0_1_0
Before we write any more on
this topic, we should be unequivocally clear that the abomination of this
war lies primarily in the needless killing and endless suffering the Iraqis
have endured in this shameless war of imperialist aggression. However –
we must also state the view that destruction of national pride is a key
part of imperialist designs - to reduce a peoples, to servility and to
lose faith in their own powers. It is a strategy from time immemorial,
and can be found in ancient texts.
But – what happened with the pillaging
of the Baghdad museum? In the first place, yet another USA and UK state
violation of the Geneva Convention has occurred:
"The Pentagon is culpable, says Ed Keall.. head
of the Royal Ontario Museum’s Near Eastern and Asian Civilisations…. They
were warned … and are in breach of the Geneva Convention, which state that
invaders must protect the national heritage",
Long before the "War of Shame"
actually occurred, the War-Mongers had been alerted already that the land
of Iraq was home to some of the world’s most important heritage sites –
it was after all, the land where the first recorded writing had taken place
in history. Several USA based archaeologists had briefed the War-Mongers
where these sites were – and that they would be subject to damage and potential
looting. But nothing was done and on April 10th , the inevitable
Ray Conologue, "Fighting over the Spoils"; Globe
and Mail, April 19, 2003, p.R1.
"On Jan. 24 at the Pentagon, a small group of
accomplished archeologists and art curators met with Joseph Collins, who
reports directly to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and four other
Pentagon officials to talk about how the U.S. military could protect Iraq's
cultural and archeological sites from damage and destruction during impending
the war in that country. McGuire Gibson, a professor at the Oriental Institute
at the University of Chicago, gave the officials a list of 5,000 cultural
and archeological sites. First on the list: the National Museum of Iraq
in Baghdad. Gibson recalls he talked to the group about the importance
of safeguarding the museum from damage from bombs -- and from looting after
the military conflict ended. "I pointed to the museum's location on a map
of Baghdad and said: 'It's right here,'" he recalled in an interview. "I
asked them to make assurances that they'd make efforts to prevent looting
and they said they would. I thought we had assurances, but they didn't
pan out." On April 10, a day after the Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed
and Baghdad was in the hands of the U.S. military forces, the National
Museum of Iraq was ransacked. And American troops did virtually nothing
to prevent an historic cultural disaster. "
On April 5th,
a briefing in Kuwait of the assembled embedded "-in-bed-with-the-military-fascists"
journalists were told by US Major Christopher Varhola that:
L. Witt, "The End of Civilization. The Sacking
of Iraq's Museums Is Like a 'Lobotomy' of an Entire Culture, Say Art Experts.
And They Warned the Pentagon Repeatedly of This Potential Catastrophe Months
Before the War," in Salon.com, April 17, 2003:
"The USA military would protect Iraq’s museums
from looting, in particular the National Museum of Baghdad".
And what has happened?
A whole priceless museum of culture has been pillaged. The scene must be
almost indescribable, yet Robert Fisk does a fine job:
Ray Conologue, Ibid; p.11.
"They lie across the floor in tens of thousands
of pieces, the priceless antiquities of Iraq's history. The looters had
gone from shelf to shelf, systematically pulling down the statues and pots
and amphorae of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Medes,
the Persians and the Greeks and hurling them on to the concrete. Our feet
crunched on the wreckage of 5,000-year-old marble plinths and stone statuary
and pots that had endured every siege of Baghdad, every invasion of Iraq
throughout history - only to be destroyed when America came to "liberate"
the city…….. No one knows what happened to the Assyrian reliefs from the
royal palace of Khorsabad, nor the 5,000-year-old seals nor the 4,500-year-old
gold leaf earrings once buried with Sumerian princesses."
Fisk also recalls the people associated
to the museum, like the Director of State Board of Antiquity:
Fisk, Robert: "A civilisation torn to pieces",
The Independent, 13 April 2003; http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=396743
"Only a few weeks ago, Jabir Khalil Ibrahim,
the director of Iraq's State Board of Antiquities, referred to the museum's
contents as "the heritage of the nation". They were, he said, "not just
things to see and enjoy - we get strength from them to look to the future.
They represent the glory of Iraq". Mr. Ibrahim has vanished, like so many
government employees in Baghdad, and Mr. Abdul-Jaber and his colleagues
are now trying to defend what is left of the country's history with a collection
of Kalashnikov rifles. "We don't want to have guns, but everyone must have
them now," he told me. "We have to defend ourselves because the Americans
have let this happen. They made a war against one man - so why do they
abandon us to this war and these criminals?"
Although Fisk is not a communist,
he is a rare commodity – an honest journalist working for the "Western
press" in the Middle East. It is therefore sad to see his incorrect assertion
Fisk, Robert: "A civilisation torn to pieces",
"The Iraqis did it. They did it to their own
history, physically destroying the evidence of their own nation's thousands
of years of civilization."
Fisk is quite wrong in this assessment.
We can be so categorical because it is clearly emerging that the USA ruling
classes had decided to wreak havoc on the culture of the country – no doubt
hoping to destroy its potential to build an anti-imperialist movement.
Destroy the pride of a people and you have destroyed its will to live –
as a nation. But, more than one imperialist power has found to its cost
that this does not happen.
Could it have been prevented?
The tone and content of many of
the Western media reports, has been that the looting taking place in Iraq
is a spontaneous reaction to the poverty and deprivation of the Saddam
Hussein years. However this benign view, is in sharp contradiction to both
objective reports, and to some obvious facts.
For instance, the enormous
military presence and fire-power of the USA and the UK in the cities was
simply not deployed as a guard and protection for key sites – hospitals,
water and electric utilities, markets, etc. Leave side the museum, where
it is also clear that the USA army refused to intervene to protect the
cultural heritage of museums and repositories of ancient manuscripts in
the libraries. It seems obvious that if they could protect the Ministry
of the Interior and the Ministry of Oil, that it was purely for their own
strategic reasons that they have allowed the looting to proceed unabated.
As Irwin Finkel, curator at the British Museum says:
"Anybody with any intelligence would have posted
guards. It’s too obvious for words".
All this puts the Rumsfeld comments
that the looting has "been exaggerated", and "freedom is messy" – into
a perspective of deliberate and wanton destruction of the Iraqi dignity,
human rights, and cultural heritage.
Globe & Mail; 19 April, 2003; p. R1.
We will try to answer the critical
question: "Why?" shortly.
The following eye-witness account,
tells a very different story from the slavish American media. It comes
from a Swedish paper, which reports the comments of Mr.Khaled Baroumi,
a student in Sweden who went home to Iraq on a humanitarian mission:
There were 170,000 separate objects,
These ranged form skeletal remains of Neanderthal man (45,000 years ago);
to alabaster figures from Tell Es-Sawwan (6th Millenium); painted
pottery from Eridu (4000 BC); impressive early Islamic manuscripts and
handcarts form the Abbasid, Seljuk, Ottoman eras; more than 3,000 tablets
of inscribed clay on mathematics, literature, administration and legal
tables; a Sumerian bison headed harp in gold and precious stones, the so-called
Mona Lisa of Nimrud (750 BC); gigantic statues of ancient times . etc.
The illustrations we show,
are detailed in a very comprehensive (although in black & white) web-site,
that we recommend at:
– which can be found at: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/iraqmus/index.html
Inscribed Duck weight
Lion Hunt 3000 BC
Nimrud 'Mona Lisa'
TheArtNewspaper says this:
The primary reason is undoubtedly
imperialist arrogance, with its goal to degrade the pride of the Iraqi
But a close second reason,
is that old answer to so many questions concerning the historical "Whys"
concerning imperialism? Avarice.
Council on Cultural Policy (the ACCP) has
openly stated it wants the right to obtain these Iraqi treasures by import
"It would satisfy the hunger for this material"
ACCP President Ashton Hawkins, former general counsel for the Metropolitan
Museum in New York. (p.R11 Globe and Mail 13 April); and another member
of the ACCP - Professor John Merryman of Stanford says: "The best solution
was to prevent the museum being plundered.. But now that’s happened, and
it was predictable, there is a possibility of picking up the pieces".
The New York Metropolitan has
long been vexed at the British Museum’s collection of Iraqi treasures
pillaged by the British archeologists such as Leonard Wooley. Ironically,
an older vintage British adventurer-imperialist – Gertrude Bell
was kinder to Iraqi and Arab views. She is credited with founding the National
Museum, and passing an export ban on treasures. It is a ban that apparently,
the New York Met has chafed about.
(Ray Conologue Ibid).
Eleanor Robson, a cuneiform
expert at Oxford University Museum also refers to the "hidden agenda"
of the ACCP:
"If you are interested in Biblical history, you
will find that most of the written Biblical record comes not form Israel,
but form Iraq. So people are really interested in this material. Sadly,
they don’t see it as belonging to the Iraqi nation".
She points out that the ACCP has
many members who belong to the right-wing fundamentalist Christian agenda,
Ray Conologue, Ibid.
"they think the objects belong to them because
they’re connected with the Biblical past. Such attitudes, "are not mainstream
in Europe, but in America they influence the government".
It seems inescapable that the
imperialists have justified their historic designation as Robber Barons.
Most probably some items were "commissioned" by rich art connoisseurs.
It is significant for example, that certain key items were looted. Duplicates
were simply ignored, and the "looters-professional thieves" opened museum
vaults with keys, and used glass cutters with great skill.
Ray Conologue, Ibid.
Undoubtedly, in the short
term UNESCO will not succeed in its stated goals, of preventing these treasures
from being spirited to the West. In the long term, this will not crush
the Iraqi [peoples quest for national liberation. The working classes of
a future Marxist-Leninist governments in the West, will have to confront
the legacies of cultural pillaging.